My research group develops devices to interface with neural systems in an effort to understand aspects of neural processing. We collaborate closely with leading neuroscientists and develop high-end technology using advanced semiconductor processing techniques.
Optogenetics: I am currently expanding my research to produce devices that can record from hundreds of neurons in vivo and aim to capitalise upon the advances in genetic techniques, such as optogenetics. The novel aspects of this development will be nanofabricating high-density electrode arrays and integrating them with micron-sized light sources (microLED arrays). This will be done in close collaboration with colleagues at the Institute of Photonics (Prof. M. Dawson's group) and at Strathclyde's Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Science (S. Sakata's group).
The combination of high-density electrophysiological recordings with genetic manipulation techniques has the potential to make important discoveries in the field of neuroscience.
Microelectrode Arrays: One such project is in the development of high-density microelectrode arrays for the recording of extracellular signals from retinal tissue. This system is the state-of-the-art and is being used to study retinal processing and encoding of dynamic visual images at the Salk Institute in San Diego and retinal development in the mouse at the University of California Santa Cruz. This research has resulted in a recent Nature publication (doi:10.1038/nature09424) where the system was used to study colour processing in the retina. It required close collaboration between my group and groups at the University of California Santa Cruz (Litke & Sher), the Salk Institute (Chichilnisky) and AGH University, Krakow (Dabrowski & Hottowy).
Within my group we have also developed novel tools for studying neuronal activity in brain slices. This “bed-of-nails” type electrode array is able to penetrate brain tissue and record extracellular single-unit activity at high resolution (60 microns) and is being extended to cover ~2mm2 of tissue. D. Gunning is funded through a Royal Academy of Engineering Fellowship to pursue this research.
Retinal Prosthesis: I am also involved in the development of prosthesis systems to restore sight to patients with degenerative retinal diseases. I collaborate with Prof. D. Palanker (Stanford University) on the microfabrication of the Stanford Retinal Prosthesis device (doi:10.1038/nphoton.2012.104).